Located in the heart of the picturesque Lake City near Chetak Circle, Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal is a unique place in India that showcases various facets of folk culture at one venue.
Founded by Padma Shri Devilal Samar in 1952, the institute aims to popularize and propagate folk arts, folk dances and folk literature, accelerate research / folkloristic and folk arts, update folk arts to suit the modern milieu, give performances of puppet shows, folk dances and songs in India and abroad, conduct training courses in folkloristic , encourage folk artists and undertake allied academic exercises and programmes.
For its highly commendable work the Mandal has received several prestigious awards given by Indian as well as foreign organizations. How it won a first prize abroad is revealed by a strange incident. In 1965, the third International Puppet Festival was to be celebrated in Rumania. Devilal Samar approached the govt. for financial help but in vain. Then he wrote a letter to erstwhile Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who invited him with his troupe. So highly impressed was Shastri by the presentation of the plays Amar Singh Rathore and Mughal Durbar that he sent the troupe to the festival to represent India. The troupe proved its worth by winning the first prize among teams from thirtysix countries. That was just the beginning of visits of troupes to several countries and winning prizes.
At first, the Institute was lodged in a hired building near the present one and was shifted to the new premises in 1959.
The Centre conducts cultural surveys of folk and tribal belts to identify and locate art forms and also artists and artisans. Audio visual documentation of the various folk forms is done regularly and the institute now has a fine archive and resource centre. A large number of books have been published on folk art subjects. A quarterly journal is also published.
The Folk Art Museum is the outcome of various art objects and artifacts collected over 68 years. Traditional costumes, ornaments, miniature paintings and many other art objects are displayed in it to give a synoptic idea of the folk heritage of India.
Govind Puppet Research and Training Centre aims at preservation and propagation of traditional puppetry through regular research, experimentation and performances. It also offers regular courses, both in educational and professional puppetry.
India has a long tradition of about two thousand years in puppetry and the style that the centre presents is the oldest and the most developed one. As the legends go the puppets come from a celestial body to entertain the human audience and have a whistle vocabulary that is interpreted in human language. The puppets are abnormally stylized, symbolic and colorful. The first Indian puppet play Sinhasan Battisi was produced in this style, popularly known as the Rajastahni style. It has been in existence since the time of Emperor Vikramaditya and the puppeteers claim their heritage from the entertainers of his time. The puppets are divided into four categories – String, Glove, Stick and Shadow puppets. The institute is known for its most outstanding puppet production and experiments.
The repertoire of puppet plays includes Ramayan Sanghthan Main Bal- Indian folk tale, Mughal Darbar, the circus, a spectacle of thrills and Kabuliwala Tagore’s story. The most popular puppet play is the Tabla Sarangi and Nartaki. The best part is that all three artists – the Tabla player, the Sarangi player and the dancer are wooden puppets imitating a real life situation.
The folk dance repertoire, an ensemble of professional dancers performs every day at the studio – theatre of the Institute. It also tours all over the country and has represented India in many foreign countries.
The folk dances include Bhavai, a dance of various tribes living on the borders of Rajasthan and Gujarat in which the dancer manages a number of pots set upon a tumbler over his head, Terataal, a dance of Kamad tribe in which the dancers tie thirteen small bells on their feet and hands and dance in the praise of Baba Ramdev, Ghoomra, a dance of tribal culture of Mewar, that is called Ghoomra because both men and women participate equally but becomes Ghoomar when only women dance, Tippani – Dandiaraas, a group dance by the women of Gujarat in which decorative sticks are used to keep to the beat of the music, Daanglila in which men and women in Rajasthan dance in groups in Melas using sticks, Chari Dance, a group dance in which women of Kishangarh Rajasthan put Chari on the head with fire, Gorbandh is based on making of Gorbandh, used for decorating camels by women of deserts in Rajasthan, Kalbeliya, a dance of Kalbeliya, snake charmer tribe of Rajasthan, that reflects the graceful, fluid movements of a snake and Chitrangada based on Tagore’s story of the same name.
In order to acquaint more and more Indian and foreign tourists with the traditional folk dances and the art of puppetry, regular cultural shows are presented. Realizing the importance of traditional media for developmental communication in the rural areas the world over, the institute conducts courses in rural communication and extension education and campaigns to promote conservation of environment in rural areas and to give messages to people through puppets, folk dance and songs.
The centre provides training to traditional artisans in developed technology for improving their craft and to enable them to withstand the pressure of the modern market. It also caters to the need of the general learners.
The Devilal Samar folk-art training centre facilitates systematic study of endangered art forms in their historical context. Regular training courses also aim at extension of these arts from beyond the caste format to ensure their continuance in an emancipated environment. The centre also conducts regular training programmes during summer vacation for school children and artists. Teachers are also trained in making puppets and using them for academic purposes.
To enable the visitor to collect souvenirs and mementos, the institute has provided a shop in the campus that is also a sales outlet for the traditional craftsmen.
Every year Devilal Samar Memorial Lokanuranjan two-day Mela is held in February to celebrate the Founder’s Day. Besides the programmes from the troupe of the institute, renowned folk groups and individuals from Rajasthan and other adjoining states are invited to give their performance. The main aim is to offer a platform to upcoming artists and to inspire them through performance by celebrities. Through this festival many vanishing folk arts have got new birth.
No wonder, the Institute has won laurels from prestigious organizations all over the world.
The commendable work of the Institute in the field of preservation, propagation and dissemination of the folk arts of Rajasthan is par excellence.